I happen to be one of a small and ever-shrinking number of Americans with something called "paid vacation." Granted, as an instructor at a public university I do not technically have paid vacation (it is never called that) but I do not have to work for three weeks in December. Or a week for Spring Break. Or three months of summer – although I usually get pressed into service for that one. This is the ultimate "benefit." It is why I and many other graduate students continue to endure the endless politicking, ass-kissing, back-stabbing, and generalized intellectual grab-ass that define academia. It is why I will not make a lot of money in my life, nor will I enjoy much freedom of movement (we go where the jobs are). And I decided, after several years in a grisly, relatively well-paid Real World job, that it is worth it.
I don't like working. If you do, I humbly submit that there is something wrong with you. Sure, there's the odd person here or there who enjoys their profession. At the very least you might enjoy your job more than the available alternatives. But do you really like working? If you didn't have to do it, would you? Frankly I'd find a lot more fulfilling ways to spend my time even if I had a fantasy fun job. I suppose this makes me "lazy" and responsible for our economy's inability to compete with the Chinese. I could not possibly care less. We were not put on this Earth to make widgets.
Sometime after, oh, 1980 the consensus in America apparently became that vacation is a vestigial anachronism of Second Wave post-war regulated capitalism (along with things like unions, pensions, and government regulation). It would shock most Americans to learn how different Things are in our neck of the woods when compared to other advanced industrial democracies. Take a serious gander at how we stack up against Europe. Whereas almost every nation in Western Europe mandates at least 20 paid vacation days per annum (that's an entire month of workdays) we here in the Land of Whose Lifestyle the World is So Envious mandate none. As a result, most of us receive exactly that. Even the Japanese, whose mythologized "kamikaze" work ethic was postulated as the explanation for why their industry kicked our ass so badly over the past 20 years, legally mandate 2 weeks.
"But! But!" says your inner Hannity, "Look at how much less productive their economies are! Look at how horrendously high their taxes are!" True. Very true. However, if that was your first reaction I have to wonder…who are you? Is your life really so joyless and your acquisitiveness so severe that you'd willingly trade the 30 paid days off they enjoy in France for the right to pay 30% in federal income tax rather than 45%? How miserable is your home life, and how limited or nonexistent are your interests (outside of shopping) that you would rather make a little more money than have time to enjoy it?
I'd like you to sound off in the comments for a very informal poll. What do you get in the way of paid vacation? And let's not forget holidays. Does your December holiday time consist of getting the 25th off and heading back to work the morning of the 26th? Of all the things that depress me about the direction in which we're headed, I think the worst is that the glories of Third Wave capitalism have instilled in our population the idea that having Memorial Day, the 4th of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas off from work is good enough. I wonder how many people actually console themselves at the end of another 50-hour week by saying "This is all worth it when I see our GDP." More likely they're drowning their sorrows in the delusion that they'll "make it" in some sort of Horatio Alger ascension to Independent Wealth. Then every day will be a vacation! Good luck with that.